As Marijuana Moves Forward, Hash Oil Explodes (Literally)

Though the Drug Enforcement Administration has approved expanding the Federal government’s marijuana grow operation in Mississippi for research and experimentation (focusing mostly on cannabidiols), real and fledgling chemists outside the government are conducting their own experiments with marijuana oils, often with dangerous and costly results.

Since the passage of Amendment 64 in Colorado, the state has seen “a rise in fiery explosions and injuries as pot users try to make the drug’s intoxicating oil in crude home-based laboratories.” Specifically, “since Jan. 1, when sales began, the state’s only certified adult burn center has treated 10 people with serious injuries suffered while making hash oil, compared with 11 in 2013 and one in 2012.”

According to the AP story, at-home hash production is akin to making moonshine in one’s bathtub — unregulated and dangerous. Explosions abound with hash oil, due to the large amounts of butane mixed with improper ventilation and any spark of electricity. The AP reports that “firefighters in [Colorado] have raced to at least 31 butane hash oil explosions this year, compared with 11 last year, according to the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, an agency that has only recently started tallying cases.”

Interestingly, the State of Colorado has not yet figured out whether it can prosecute these exploding hash oil makers or not. Though law enforcement compares these unregulated hash operations to the notorious meth-lab craze of the 1990s, the State remains uncertain whether to charge these manufacturers with felonies or let them go because of the new marijuana laws that allow individuals 21 and over to grow up to six plants at home and, therefore, make their own oil. The laws on making hash oil are vague and the expectation is that the Colorado legislature should and will step in to clarify what can and cannot be done in the home. Federal law enforcement might also step in and start making arrests to end this practice.

Regardless of what the Colorado legislature decides to do, it is pretty clear that at-home oil manufacturing is risky. With marijuana legalization comes regulation, and it is unrealistic to expect otherwise. One of the benefits of marijuana regulation should be increased safety. By being first to legalize recreational marijuana, Colorado once again finds itself blazing a trail that other states are no doubt watching.  It will be interesting to see how Colorado handles this latest loophole in its cannabis laws.

In the meantime though, don’t try this (making hash oil) at home!